Being a grown up, in a grown up job, with a mortgage and responsibilities is really hard when every 5 minutes your mind races off on yet another tangent and you struggle to just sit still.
I thought that I had been coping quite well, hiding my big fat ADHD symptoms and honing my impulsiveness and hard wired drive into ambition and the pursuit of excellence in what I do. But now it’s kind of caught up with me, and the more I push myself and my thoughts in a direction of future leadership, the more concerned I am that the part of me that truly makes me ‘me’ will be my downfall.
I am opinionated, I blurt things out at inappropriate moments, I struggle to think politically and diplomatically and my world is one of black or white, there are very few shades of grey. I often double book myself, commit to far too much and work to almost impossible deadlines – I am most managers’ nightmare, and I know that through all of the above I have hurt some and let down many. But, my inability to just sit and do nothing, the circus in my head and being so far out the box that I cut it up and made a hat with the pieces, are the things that drive me and push me to take on challenges, find new ways of thinking and working and be good at what I do in a professional capacity.
In teaching observations I often get praised for the structure my lessons posses, I chunk the time up into small manageable pieces and often use time limits for tasks. Observers tell me how great that is for the type of students I work with – disengaged, unmotivated 16-19 year old lads on construction programmes, often with learning difficulties. I smile and say, things like “well it’s clear from research that such an approach supports engagement and makes task more likely to be completed and therefore learning take place” and I think to myself whilst saying that “and if I didn’t, I’d be at a complete loss, my mind would wander and we’d be discussing the best way to cook eggs for breakfast rather than how to find percentage parts…”
So what works for my students, also works for me. My students and I are not so different, though many would find that hard to believe, as they only see the surface me. There is an ongoing process that I have to put myself through, to disguise head-circus related scatiness into innovation and enterprise.
You have no idea how hard it is to maintain this facade…and if you do, then comment below and let’s talk some more on how we go about our lives in a constant state of theatre, papering over the cracks of our personalities with words like ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’.
People with ADHD/ADD have so much to give and if they can devise strategies to keep them on the straight and narrow then they will no doubt about it, be good at what they do, they certainly don’t lack determination! When you are a student, either young or mature, institutions make allowances and take such diagnoses into consideration…when employed by such institutions this isn’t so much the case. You cross the divide between student and lecturer and suddenly any weaknesses and issues need to be dealt with, they are not allowed to affect your working life as they would be allowed to affect your studying and then be supported.
This isn’t a complaint of how institutions deal with disability – I don’t consider myself to be disabled and I never disclose my diagnosis formally. It is a plea, for anyone in any role in any line of employment, to remember that sometimes there are unseen issues and by talking about them and finding out how problems can be helped, you may well get the best from your staff. Identifying the problem is only half the battle, finding solutions is where optimal productivity starts.
Henry David Thoreau said that “if a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away”. Surely in a culture of inclusivity and acceptance of differences, such words ring truer than ever before.